• Project not economically viable
• Research shows traffic volumes too low
Against expert advice Parliament has passed a motion asking government to consider the introduction of toll gates on major roads in the country, to generate revenue towards maintenance and repair. The motion by Francistown West legislator Ignatius Moswaane was passed after lengthy deliberations that nearly saw it deferred at some point due to parliament not forming a quorum.
It took an amendment of the motion for it to be given a green light. Originally the motion read ‘that this Honourable House requests Government to introduce toll gates on all major roads in Botswana for motor vehicles weighing 2.5 tonnes and above as cost recovery measures for damages caused by heavy tracks on the roads’.
However, it was amended to read ‘that this Honourable House requests Government consider introducing toll gates on all major roads in Botswana for motor vehicles weighing 2.5 tonnes and above as cost recovery measures for damages caused by heavy tracks on the roads’. It was after the addition of ‘consider’ that the members of parliament then voted in favour of the motion.
When presenting the motion Moswaane said inadequate funding has hampered government’s efforts to rehabilitate the road network and there is need for the introduction of toll gates to address this challenge. Moswaane said toll gates will help government to raise the needed funds while it will also reduce the total net cost to the economy which will ensure greater opportunities for prosperity and growth. “The money collected form the tolls on specific roads will be used to upgrade or improve the roads,” said argued Moswaane.
The road network in the country has always been a cause for concern for motorist who complain that they are in a poor state. The increasing of cars on the roads is another issue which many attribute to causing the congestion always experienced on the roads. As a result Moswaane feels that the money from toll gates will help with the upgrading and expansion of the roads which will address the issue of congestion in the roads as it is currently the case.
The passing of the motion was made despite Minster of Transport and Communication Tshenolo Mabeo’s supplications that toll gates are currently not viable in the country. Mabeo said this was according to a study conducted by the ministry in 2005. He said through the study looking at the feasibility of toll gates it was found that they will not be beneficial to the country as traffic volumes were considered to be low at the time.
According to Botswana Transport and Infrastructure statistics report of 2013 compiled by Statistics Botswana, privately owned vehicles registered in Botswana in 2005 for all types of vehicles were around 185,043 and the figure grew to 405,155. However, Mabeo said “of these 405,155 registered privately owned vehicles as at 2013, around 27,029 of them were trucks and tankers which contribute only 6.7% of the registered vehicles”.
The minister said looking at proportion of trucks and tankers relative to all registered vehicles they are of a view that establishing toll gates to target them only will not be economic as operation costs for toll gates will outweigh revenue collected. “It must also be noted that tolling all major roads may render some of the toll gates redundant as a greater portion of trucks and tankers may be along a certain road as opposed to being evenly distributed along major roads tolled,” he added.
All Members of Parliament who were against the motion concurred with the transport minister saying the country is not at a stage of introducing toll gates. MP for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaigwa said he sees no point of considering something that is clearly not feasible. “Why waste more money on this while it has been proven it is not viable,” he said.
According to Nkaigwa just like the others there are many other ways of getting tax from the people like coming up with a deliberate policy to make sure vehicle users pay for using Botswana roads. He also pointed that the improvement of rail network can also help ease problems experienced by road users.
Some of the MPs who opposed the motion were Ndaba Gaolathe, Dr Tlamelo Mmatli, Pius Mokgware and Gilbert Mangole. All of them felt that the exercise will be costly not only to Batswana but the government as well. They point that the cost of setting up the infrastructure and maintaining it will be too high as opposed to the money that will be retrieved. They also point that the state of roads at the moment does not permit for toll gates saying the roads will have to be put to good conditions first which will further cost the more money.
However, when showing his support for the motion Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the amended motion opens up all the considerations towards the matter. Masisi said the intention of the motion is noble as it intends to come up with ways of soliciting funds for the government. He said government needs money to develop the country and improve the livelihood of Batswana.
Masisi further dismissed arguments that toll gates will be expensive to Batswana saying people have to pay for services. He commended Moswaane for what he called a brilliant motion.The motion was also supported by Maun west MP Tawana Moremi, Maun East MP Konstantinos Markus and Likat Kably.